The Comeback Cards are at it again to finish out April. Down 2-0 going into the 8th, they tie it up and then take the lead in the 9th. Later that night while grocery shopping I saw a Braves fan and resisted the urge to rub it in. I know what it’s like to have a closer who doesn’t close.
For the Cardinals, Jake Westbrook proved that he might be back at it. Two earned runs over 6 innings is enough to garner a quality start, though I would have liked to see him go deeper into the ballgame. The 106 pitches he threw, said otherwise. His ERA is now down to 6.53. It’s going to take awhile to rebound it though.
Once again a solid bullpen brought home the game. Mitchell Boggs, Miguel Batista, and Fernando Salas brought home the game, throwing 3 scoreless innings of relief. Batista earned the win while Salas picked up his second save of the season.
For the offense, it was David Freese that provided the 2 RBI single to tie up the game with two outs in the 8th. Then Gerald Laird scored Matt Holliday on a 9th inning triple.
Hero: Tough decision for me between Freese and Laird, both played integral parts. Ultimately, Freese set it up, so he will get it. (2-for-4, 2 RBI, 1 K)
Zero: Tough call between Lance Berkman and Albert Pujols. While Berkman got just 2 at bats as he came in late in the game, he left 5 runners on base. Pujols played the whole game and went hitless, leaving 3. Berkman had the opportunity to blow it wide open, and didn’t. (0-for-2, 1 K, 5 LOB)
The bullpen has made us the Cardiac Cards, but tonight we were the comeback Cards. A sacrifice fly by Daniel Descalso in the ninth tied up the game and it was a Nick Punto triple in the eleventh that put the Cardinals ahead.
Chris Carpenter once again turned in a quality start, his fifth on the season, and yet he remains winless. He left the game today after 7 innings with the Cardinals down 3-2. He will officially go winless in April, despite having been effective on the mound. Despite the solid start, this was the first game that Carpenter has started and the Cardinals have won. I’m sure that gives Carpenter a little relief in the end.
Mitchell Boggs, Eduardo Sanchez, Jason Motte, and Trevor Miller combined in the bullpen to offer 4 scoreless innings of relief. For Boggs, it was an exit from his typical 9th inning position after he blew the save in Houston. I’m sure Cardinal Nation was questioning the move to bring Trevor Miller in for the final out of the game, relieving Motte. However, Miller finally got the job done.
Hero: Nick Punto. The game winning triple. (1-for-6, 2 RBI, 2 LOB)
Zero: Colby Rasmus. (0-for-4, 2 BB, 1 K, 4 LOB)
Kyle McClellan picks up his fourth win of the season, remaining undefeated, as the Cardinals offense puts up a huge crooked number in the top of the 6th and Lance Berkman went off on his former team.
While Kyle McClellan ended up with the win, it was potentially his least impressive start. Today he was unable to dance out of trouble as he was tagged with 5 earned runs in 5.2 innings. Despite it, his ERA is only up to 3.23 as he is still perfect on the year and hasn’t been tagged with a loss. In fact, the Cardinals have won every game McClellan has started this season.
Lance Berkman has had a great series against his former team, but none better than tonight. With a pair of homers, a three run shot in the sixth and a solo shot in the ninth, Berkman went wild with 5 total RBI in a 4-for-5 performance. It was also during this game that I realized why this team can be successful, while 2010 was a disappointment. Berkman is a unifying force in the clubhouse, willing to chat with everyone veterans and rookies alike. I think it keeps the clubhouse and the dugout a little looser during games and allows them to relax and just play. Something, I feel, that’s been missing since Jim Edmonds left.
Fernando Salas meanwhile came in a cleaned up an 8th inning mess and then closed out the 9th for his first save of the season for the big league club. Perhaps we have a true closer by committee?
Hero: Lance Berkman, was there any doubt? (4-for-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 1 2B, 5 RBI)
Zero: Daniel Descalso. It was his two errors that set up the trouble in the 8th inning, and he didn’t add anything from the plate to help. (0-for-5, 3 K, 5 LOB)
The Cardiac Cardinals. After the bullpen failed to hold onto the lead the night before, the bullpen took a 6-0 lead and made it close. Ultimately, it was Eduardo Sanchez striking out Hunter Pence with the game tying run on second base.
Kyle Lohse picked up his fourth win of the season, pitching 7 dominant innings before giving way to the bullpen. Lohse has been impressive this season, he sports a 1.64 ERA and a 4.8 K/BB ratio. He has, by far, been the Cardinals ace this season and in a time when they needed it like nothing else. It is nice to see him finally right and finally getting a chance to earn his paycheck (despite Forbes naming him the most overpaid pitcher
For the offense, it was a team effort with 5 different Cardinals driving home runs and 6 different Cardinals scoring them. It is a radically different Cardinals offense from last year as they seem to really be clicking right now. In the 7th inning, it was the core of the Cardinals lineup that provided three of the four eventually much needed insurance runs. Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, and Lance Berkman each had RBI hits with two outs.
And on the bullpen. Ryan Franklin and Trevor Miller are struggling hard. Franklin faced two batters, each who scored a hit against him before being pulled out of the game for Trevor Miller. Ironically, it’s been Miller who has handed Franklin a mess on the base paths a few times this season, this time it was Franklin giving Miller a mess. And once again Miller failed to convert his much needed out, walking his left handed hitter. Fernando Salas allowed a pair of hits, but managed to get the Cardinals out of the inning. Handing the ball to Eduardo Sanchez in his first high pressure situation. Three hits and two earned runs later, Sanchez managed to fight his way out, striking out the final batter of the game.
Hero: Kyle Lohse. (7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 0 R, 2 K)
Zero: Ryan Franklin and Trevor Miller in a split award. (Combined: 0.0 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 3 ER, 0 K)
It was set to be Lance Berkman
‘s homecoming. As Matt Leach stated on Twitter last night, Berkman had written everyone’s stories for them with an RBI double in the top of the 9th to give St. Louis the lead. But things changed quickly. A single, a passed ball, an error, and a wild pitch later and the Astros tied up the game and had Michael Bourn
on first, all with newly minted closer Mitchell Boggs
on the mound. The Astros would then load the bases on Boggs, all without getting a single out. Ultimately, with one out Bill Hall
singled in the game winning run and Boggs was left staring at a blown save and a loss.
If the main storyline coming into this game was the return of Lance Berkman to Houston. One of the minor ones had to be former Cardinals’ prospect Brett Wallace
getting to play his old team for the first time. While Berkman went 2-for-5 with a ninth inning RBI, Wallace played a crucial part for the Astros, going 3-for-4 and adding an RBI of his own.
For the Cardinals, the hero of the night would be Daniel Descalso
. He would go 3-for-3 with two doubles, a triple, and an intentional walk. He became just the 26th Cardinal in franchise history to post 7 total bases in just 4 plate appearances. The last was Adam Kennedy
in 2008 and it had only been done 3 times in the Tony LaRussa era.
The other big note of the night was Albert Pujols
getting an intentional walk in his only plate appearance of the game. He didn’t start due to concerns with his hamstring, but made a pinch hitting appearance in the top of the 8th. It was his first intentional walk of the season, making it the deepest in a season that he’d gotten an intentional walk. He got walked in his 23rd game this year, his previous long had been in the 7th game of the season. Dating back to last year, he hadn’t been intentionally walked in 27 straight games, that was the 9th longest streak of his career. His longest was an amazing 80 games from June 2004 to September 2004.
Hero: Does it go to anyone other than Daniel Descalso? 3-for-3 with 3 RBI and 7 total bases is a pretty incredible night. (3-for-3, 2 2B, 1 3B, 3 RBI)
Zero: Mitchell Boggs. Am I clamoring for his replacement? No. If Franklin was given 4 mistakes, we can give Boggs at least 1. What concerned me, though, was the fact that they tied the game before Boggs was able to notch a single out and mental errors compounded the situation. It will be interesting to see how he comes back in his next opportunity. (0.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER)
got a much needed dominant start as he held the divisional rival Reds to just three hits over six innings. His mirror, Edinson Volquez
matched him into the sixth inning when Yadier Molina
parked one over the fence for his first home run of the season, plating three runs with it. Molina even mimicked the home run trot of Brandon Phillips
. Molina and Phillips were the two players at the center of last August’s confrontation between the Cardinals and Reds.
For Westbrook, he had struggled mightily so far in 2011. Going into the season he was the Cardinals #2 starter. He hadn’t shown it, but Sunday night he finally broke through, much to the enjoyment of Cardinals’ fans. It was when they needed it most. The rubber game of a home series against the team they were tied for the early season division lead with. Westbrook came out like a shining star.
The bullpen also showed it’s dominance of the Reds offense. Fernando Salas
, Eduardo Sanchez
, and Mitchell Boggs
combined to throw 3 innings and strike out 6. Boggs would be the only one of the trio to allow a hit, with a double to Joey Votto
, but Boggs would easily pick up his third save in as many chances by striking out the final two batters of the inning.
For Molina, he has finally turned it around at the plate. After struggling to start the season, in the team’s last 8 games, Molina is hitting .393 with a home run and 5 RBI. Something that was always interesting to me, was that despite Molina’s early season struggles at the plate, he was still among the team’s leaders at scoring in base runners.
Hero: Tonight’s hero will go to Jake Westbrook, though Molina is very deserving as well. For Westbrook it was a night he needed to come up big, and he did. (6.0 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 4 K)
Here’s calling Daniel Descalso
‘s bat? Anyone? Once Schumaker and Craig return from the disabled list, someone will be joining Mark Hamilton
on the trip back to Memphis. Unfortunately for Descalso, he has not hit well lately and didn’t last night either. As much as I love Descalso, that puts him at the top of my list for that passenger list. (0-for-3, 2 K, 3 LOB)